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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Hedgehogs Sickens 20 People

European hedgehog in maple leaves.
European hedgehog in maple leaves. (Image credit: <a href="">Matej Ziak</a>, <a href="">Shutterstock</a>)

A salmonella outbreak linked to pet hedgehogs has sickened 20 people in eight states, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All the patients were infected with a strain of bacteria called Salmonella typhimurium. Fourteen of the ill people reported direct contact with hedgehogs, the CDC said.

The outbreak began in December 2011, and has continued into 2013. So far, four people have been hospitalized, and one has died. Many of the affected have been children, the CDC said.

Washington state has reported the most cases, seven, followed by Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, which have each reported three cases. Other states that have reported infections are Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon.

Although the most common source of salmonella infections is food poisoning, animals can spread the disease as well. Besides hedgehogs, salmonella outbreaks have also been linked to pet turtles.

To reduce the risk of infection, it's important to wash your hands after handling hedgehogs, or anything the animals come in contact with, the CDC said. Adults should supervise children around hedgehogs and make sure the youngsters wash their hands after touching the animal or anything the hedgehog has been in contact with.

The report will be published this week in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Pass it on: Twenty people have fallen ill from a salmonella outbreak linked to hedgehogs.

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Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.